I just came from the coffeeshop. As I walked away from the counter with a slice of sour cream coffee cake in one hand and a cup of earl grey in the other, an elderly gentleman in a red plaid beret said with a smile, ~ that looks like it'll scare the demons away. He was there enjoying tea with his elderly wife, who wore a magenta dress and a red cardigan. I couldn't stop watching them as they sipped their large white mugs of tea with shaking hands (he had paid for her tea.)
I thrill to the older generation. My grandfather's simple, bright, good-quality clothes; my grandmother's African violets and her feathers in jam jars. Recipes from scratch, iced tea in the hammock, hiking the creek and picking berries in the woods behind their house. A generation without cell phones, with time to spare.
Watching that couple today made me realize I want more of that in my life ~ time to sit and have a cup of tea with a loved one. Time to build and watch the fire in the evening. To do one thing at a time. To know how to make things with my hands, and enjoy the decorations of nature. To keep things simple and enjoyable and low-key.
I know it's easy to romanticize the past: to filter out the negative and pretend it was perfect and dreamy. I know I have choices. Tim and I have made plenty of choices to keep things simple: we don't have a microwave or many "gadgets," we love camping vacations, we grow our own vegetables, and we are really looking forward to getting our wood stove installed in a few weeks (!).
I am afraid that as a culture, we are losing our tangibility with how things feel: holding and looking at and turning a record is a different experience than handling a cd; synthetic materials just don't have the beautiful heft and weight of linen, cotton, wool; wood has a soul plastic will never have; and canned soup just isn't the same as homemade. That said, I know we have these things for many reasons ~ cost, ease, attainability, and fun!
I find myself many days searching on the computer through other people's lives on their blogs and in their photos. Searching for something that I want? That I wish I had? (Chelsea and Susannah have some great thoughts on this.) And in the end I often come away inspired, but sometimes I come away feeling unsettled ~ Where is my focus? What am I doing? What do I want?
I want to live my days and experience my moments. I want those moments to be filled with real, tactile things so my body and not just my mind gets involved. I want to interact with the world in a tangible way ~ with nature, with the seasons, with animals, with food, with my artwork (sewing, building, collaging). I feel that using all of our senses calls to a primal level of ourselves ~ the body responds to touch, smell, sight, taste and sounds in a way that the brain can't just conjure up on its own.
Sometimes my heart aches for a simpler time, and then I remember that the choices are mine, insofar as they lay within my abilities. I can make my life what I want it to be. Sometimes I want things so badly I can't even see what I already have.
I guess if I had to be concise I would say to myself, slow down.
I slow down when I reach for my film camera instead of my digital. When I stop and really look at the fall root vegetables at the cop-op, when I go for a walk in exactly what I'm wearing, when I remember to stop and take a deep breath, when I remember I don't have to get it all done today.
When I take time to do one thing at a time ~ and to be inspired by an elderly couple sharing tea wordlessly, saying everything that needs saying.